I find myself constantly writing these comments over and over again, so I think I’ll write a post I can reference.
Breastfeeding is really really difficult at first. It doesn’t really come naturally either for mom or for the baby. (Some folks suggest it comes easier if the baby is allowed to nurse immediately after birth, which may be true, but there’s still a lot of learning involved.) Reading up on it is helpful, and having the number for a good lactation consultant or LLL can work wonders.
Breastmilk is demand-induced supply. The way the baby tells your breasts to make more milk is by sucking as much as ze can, even after the breast is empty (the breast never gets completely empty, but it definitely will go down in amount stored with each feeding). Unfortunately, there’s a delayed response between the baby saying, “I want more” and the body actually making more. The breasts will have more storage capacity and more milk in them later, so long as the baby keeps sucking. A common mistake encouraged by the formula companies is to feed a bottle of formula at this point, but when you do that, the breast doesn’t get the message to make more milk and so the baby still doesn’t have enough to drink the next time, so there’s more formula supplementation, and eventually the mother loses her supply and stops nursing. A recommendation is no formula for the first two weeks (assuming the right number of wet diapers) until the milk supply is set in. Another trick you can do that cuts down on the painful (to mom) crying is to pump so that you get a small oversupply, so that your breasts are ahead of the curve on supply.
Your baby starts out with a tummy that’s about the size of a dime. That means lots and lots of nursing while you and the baby learn how to nurse. As the baby grows, the tummy grows, and it wants more milk but can go longer between feedings. It is normal for a baby to eat frequently, especially during growth spurts.
Later on, you may think you have a lower supply. Read these links on kelly-mom:
Remember too that babies will lose some weight after being born, and that’s normal. Additionally breast-fed babies have a different growth-curve than formula-fed babies and don’t poo as much. An older breast-fed baby can go a LONG time without a poo and that is also normal. (The resulting poo is generally ginormous though.)
A few more things to point out if you suspect a low supply later:
1. You may be about to have your period. Your supply will go back up after it is over.
2. You may be anemic. You need to eat more iron: pills, red meat, oatmeal etc.
3. At some point in nursing your breasts become less milk storage devices and more milk creation devices. This is normal. Just because they’re squishy doesn’t mean they’re not making enough milk.
4. The one major thing missing from kellymom is discussions about pumping problems. If you’re just going by pump output, you may need to clean out your pump. Is there cat hair on the motor membrane? The medela PISA seems to be designed for the rubber membrane to rupture every 9 months (at least the versions I and my similar baby aged colleagues had… the earlier ones were more hardy and the later ones may be as well). Do you need to replace the little white flappy things on the horn?
How to insure a good supply:
Mom needs to do NOTHING for the first two weeks (longer if c-section) except sleep, eat, drink water, nurse, and relax. She needs to be waited on hand and foot. She is not to be allowed to clean or cook or anything. She needs to conserve her energy and her sleep for learning how to nurse and making food for the baby. The #1 determinant of ability to nurse long-term is support. (Obviously there are cases in which breast-feeding is impossible, like after some kinds of breast reduction surgery, or because of genetic problems, and thank God we have formula, but for most people it is lack of support that is the problem.) Kellymom now has a forum in addition to being an awesome resource otherwise.
I could talk a lot more about breast-feeding, but I think I’ll just stick to the issues of supply. Do you have any questions, comments, concerns, stories?